Irish Examiner, 20 Sept 2014: Concern at proposed Aran fish farm plan

Concern at proposed Aran fish farm plan

Irish Examiner, 20 Sept 2014


By Claire O’Sullivan


The state agency in charge of the country’s rivers has called on the Department of Agriculture to consider a study which concluded fish farming has a “general negative effect” on sea trout stocks, when deciding to grant permission to a planned 1,000-acre fish farm off the Aran Islands.

The Norwegian research concluded that fish farming generates increased numbers of sea lice, a naturally-occurring parasite that feed off salmon and sea trout, and this increase can lead to potentially 12-44% fewer salmon spawning in areas where there is intensive salmon farming. It also said intensive fish farming can lead to falling sea trout stocks and reduced growth in surviving sea trout stocks.

Inland Fisheries Ireland Chairman Brendan O’Mahony said: “This new study confirms the evidence collected since the early 1990s in Ireland regarding the impact of sea lice on wild sea trout stocks, particularly in relation to the collapse of Connemara’s sea trout stocks.

“The Board of IFI has consistently called for marine salmon farms to maintain sea lice levels close to zero prior to and during the wild sea trout and salmon smolt migration period in spring. IFI has also raised concerns regarding the location of salmon farms in the estuaries of salmon and sea trout rivers.

“The Board of IFI believes this new review confirms the need for very tight regulation of sea lice levels on salmon farms and raises legitimate concerns with regard to the potential impact of new, large scale salmon farms, proposed along Ireland’s west coast, on salmon and sea trout stocks.”

The research by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research is a literature review of 300 previously published studies on the topic.&

The Department of Agriculture said it has “referred the review in question to the Marine Institute for assessment.”

“In Ireland, the control protocols in respect of sea lice are operated by the Marine Institute on behalf of the State and are more advanced than those operated in other jurisdictions: the inspection regime is totally independent of the industry,” said the spokesman.

Meanwhile, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, which wants to develop a 500-hectare, deep-sea salmon farm 6km off Inis Oírr in the Aran Islands, has said it was “surprised” to see the review “relied heavily” on a sea trout monitoring programme suspended by the Department of the Marine in 1997 after independent experts confirmed concerns the sampling programme was unreliable.

“To our knowledge, the most up-to-date scientific position remains, as set out by the Marine Institute of Ireland, that ‘sea lice from any source are a minor and irregular component in the survival of outwardly migrating salmon smolts’,” Director of Aquaculture Development, Donal Maguire, said.

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